A number of people have asked for ideas on how to be more playful, as they feel that they are not very good at imaginative play.
One of the games kids love the most is when their dolls or stuffed animals talk to them. Coincidentally this was one of the games I loved the least.
My oldest son LOVED this game. He called it “him talk to me”. “Him” was his little stuffed toys that looked like the characters in a popular childrens show. I was terrible at that game. So absolutely horrible at it. For one, I have broken ears so I can’t get the voices right. For two- I felt like I had to come up with awesome scripts to rival that TV show. On the fly. By myself.
Then I learned the secret. Everything is more fun if mommy isn’t the one saying it. It doesn’t matter what is being said, as long as it is the stuffed doll talking and not mommy.
I didn’t have to come up with scripts. I didn’t have to use the right voices. I didn’t even have to remember the right names. I could ask my child what the names were 500 times in a day and it was just another funny game to him that the character had forgotten what his name was and that it was asking about different names that all sounded similar. “Am I….. Austid? Am I … Aussie? Am I…. Austlow? I’m Austin? Really? I don’t think I’m Austin… I think I’m… Uhh.. GRANDPA!” You cannot begin to imagine how many minutes can be spent making your child double over laughing as his stuffed toy tries to prove to him that he is actually a 6 foot tall balding man.
Sometimes the toys start off saying exactly what I would say. Sometimes they would proclaim complete incompetence in the game to start, and then laugh at themselves before requesting that my son give them a piggy back ride. Or they would argue with me and I’d ask my son to be the tie-breaker that could help me choose between baked salmon and rice or macaroni and cheese for dinner. Or they’d read books to him that he would not have otherwise been interested in reading at the moment.
If you find that you don’t know what to say when your child wants you to make a toy talk to him… Just say what YOU would say to your child. As long as you say it in a tone slightly higher or slightly deeper than your own voice while you make the toy move.. You’re being imaginative enough.
Understanding that freed me up to be more imaginative, and it actually ended up becoming a fun game to play.
You don’t have to be good at it. In fact you can be pathetically bad at it, and your child will still be amused. You just have to pick a place to start trying, and start. As you do it more frequently it becomes a second nature and suddenly everything has a voice when your child needs a distraction or to be entertained or reassured.
Playfulness as a parenting tool
My middle child has a special friend “Mommy Spider” which is my hand. Whenever he’s struggling with something my hand-spider will start tapping its feet a little bit, then will pop up and walk over to Alexander. “Hi! What’s your name?” it will ask. And he’ll be immediately enthralled. I.. Err.. Mommy Spider will ask him what he’s upset about, and he’ll talk about the troubles that he would otherwise struggle to vocalize.
A game that I used to hate has become a fun way to connect with a melting-down two and a half year old.